Saturday, February 28, 2015

Stacking the Shelves - I Read More than I Got!

I read three books this week and only got one new one. That's the direction I'm trying to go at this point, so I'm happy. Here's what I got....

For Review:


Book Cover After the Red Rain by Lyga, DeFranco, Facinelli
After the Red Rain, by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco from Edelweiss and NetGalley
I'll read anything Barry Lyga writes.

So, that's it for me. How about you? Leave me a link! Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. See you soon.





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Friday, February 27, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday: Out of the Fire

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Time for Feature & Follow hosted by Alison & Parajunkee. Here's this week's question:

Your house is burning down and you have time to select three books you own to take with you. What three books? - Suggested by Alison Can Read.

I have several autographed books that would be nice to have, but I'm not sure that's where I would go first. I have some old children's books from when I was a kid that I would hate to lose, but they're kind of packed away and I doubt I could get to them.  Maybe I need to rethink their location! So if I'm answering the question as asked, I'd have to say The Night Before Christmas from me and my siblings' childhoods. And some other children's books. One would be Never Tease a Weasel, one of my favorites.

Most books are replaceable, right? I used to say I'd grab my photo albums, but now most of my pictures are electronically stored too.  What do I want to save? I would grab my backup hard drive--I have one with just pictures on it. I would grab my computer. I have a tub in my closet with old photo albums -- the ones before pictures were digital -- so I'd try to grab that. This is such a hard question and I hope I never have to actually make that decision!

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a link with your thoughts on this one. Have a great weekend!





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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran book cover
Prepare for some gushing about another great historical fiction, Rebel Queen.

The Rebel Queen is India's Queen Lakshmi from the mid 1800s. The British are slowly taking over India. Our narrator is Sita, a young girl from a small village that has trained for years to be one of the queen's guards. In her village, she was subject to purdah, the seclusion of women from public. She never left her home, unless she was in a covered buggy.  The family is very poor and there is no chance of a dowry so that Sita can marry, so her father plans for her to become a member of the Durga Dal, the group of elite female soldiers that protect the queen.

Sita's life changes dramatically after her arrival at the palace, and she wins favor with the queen because she can speak English. Tensions continue to mount, as the British take over more and more of India. After unbelievable tragedy, the queen has no power. The British are prepared to relieve her of her kingdom. But the queen, Sita, and the other Durga Dal won't let that happen without a fight.

The customs of India are engrossing. The characters are vivid and interesting, each with distinct personalities. Sita makes mistakes but is always strong. There's heartbreak and brutality beyond belief. There's romance and devotion to god. I was fascinated by every minute of this story, which is based in fact. I couldn't put it down.

I've always been a Moran fan, and Rebel Queen just solidifies my admiration. I still haven't read Nefertiti, but it's going on the list! Anyone who enjoys historical fiction will love this well-written beautiful story. And, if you are interested in the history of India, Rebel Queen will captivate.

Published by Touchstone, March 3, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 5/5





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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book Review: Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby book cover
I was surprised by the weird paranormal aspect of Bone Gap. I was enjoying an engaging contemporary story with what I thought was an unreliable narrator. Maybe that's what it is? I have mixed feelings.

Bone Gap is narrated mostly by Finn, who is unusual. Bone Gap is a very small town in Illinois and everyone knows everybody. Finn and his older brother were abandoned by their mother, and now live alone and take care of each other.

Roza is another main narrator. She lived with Finn and his brother for a while in a small apartment in their house. They found her in their barn one morning, beaten and abused. Roza never explained where she came from. They nursed her back to health, and she cooked for them and took care of their garden. Finn's brother was smitten.

Roza disappears, and Finn tries to tell everyone that he saw a man take her away -- that she was kidnapped, but Finn can't describe the man, and everyone thinks Roza left of her own free will.

Finn is feeling guilty because no one will look for Roza. There are many other aspects of the story. Someone leaves a beautiful horse in Finn's barn. Finn becomes romantically involved with a local teen girl, who is also somewhat of a misfit. The next door neighbor is also unusual and keeps his chickens in his house.

At first I thought that maybe Finn has Aspergers, because he never looks people in the eye, but that's not what it is. I thought both Roza and/or Finn may be unreliable narrators, because as Roza talks about where she is being held, it doesn't really make sense. Or else she was drugged. Turns out there is a paranormal aspect, along with a bizarre medical condition that explains those things....or does it? I'm just not sure how I feel about the resolution.

I had difficulty with all the flash backs and flash forwards. It was hard to tell what time we were in -- Roza goes way back into her past, and jumps around to the present, and then to a more recent past. Somewhat randomly, without warning. Finn does the same thing. I needed better transitions, or indicators of a change in time.

The writing was great. The story swept me along and I became involved with these characters. I just felt a bit jarred by the whole premise of the unexpected ending. Bone Gap is easy to read and may be a good book for book clubs to discuss. I'm just unsettled.

Published by Balzer + Bray, March 3, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Dreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King

Dreaming Spies, Laurie R. King book cover
Dreaming Spies gives the reader a little taste of a classic Sherlock Holmes story.

This is the first Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes book that I've read. I think this is the 12th book in this series. Once I got through the first 1/3 of the book, I really enjoyed it.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are married and in this series they solve crimes or mysteries. It's the 1920s and they are on a cruise ship going to Japan for a vacation. Well, that's not going to happen.  They meet a Japanese woman on the ship who agrees to teach some of the passengers about the culture and language of Japan. This woman turns out to be much more than she seems. There's a missing book and a British Earl who is a blackmailer, and Holmes knows it. As in most stories about Sherlock Holmes, the details of the case don't matter, it's all in the solving.

Dreaming Spies takes a long time to get going. The first third of the book is all introduction of character and setting. I really had to convince myself to continue reading, but I had heard so many people rave about these books. Dreaming Spies did eventually pull me in, and I ended up very glad I decided to finish it.

The actual case is interesting, but I was expecting more "Holmes" kinds of deciphering clues and solving puzzles. Most of the investigation and solution involved physically breaking in to places and some clever costumes and personifications. There was no, "I know he was recently divorced because of the lighter skin where his ring used to be" kinds of observations that I expect from Sherlock Holmes.

I did enjoy their unique way of traveling through Japan. They end up having to prove their worthiness to actually help solve this mystery and that was the most compelling part of the story.  I always find the Japanese culture to be fascinating and this added to my knowledge.

I would consider reading more books in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. I will also recommend these books to my mystery lovers. I think those teens would find these characters and stories very interesting.

Published by Bantam, February 17, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review: No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss

Book cover: No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss
I enjoyed the unique premise of No Parking at the End Times, but wished for a more developed story.

Abigail, her twin brother Aaron, and her parents are in San Francisco living out of their van. Their parents believed the end of the world was coming and sold everything, climbed in their van, and went to California to be near Brother John, who predicted this end. Well, it didn't happen and now they have nothing. But the parents are still devout followers of Brother John. So when he says "This is a test from God" or "Put your faith in God and he will provide" they believe it wholeheartedly. So they do nothing to bring themselves out of this mess. They continue to give what little they have to Brother John and survive on what little charity they can get from others. This most Godly man, Brother John, gives them nothing except sermons.

It was so hard to read what these teens were going through. They sneaked away from their parents and got to know some other street kids. Aaron is angry and wants to get enough money to return home. Abigail is more sympathetic and still trusts her parents. I empathized with their situation but also found it very frustrating.

I find it hard to believe any parent would watch their kids go through this and do nothing. All in the name of God. Unfortunately, I'm sure it happens. The kids kept talking about an uncle that would help them. I don't understand why they didn't call him and come clean. Yes, Abi does call him eventually but doesn't tell him the truth.

No Parking at the End Times was a very quick read. Almost too quick. While I felt for the kids, I didn't feel the story had enough depth and details to really make me connect. I would have liked more background, especially what happened to the parents to get to this point. I know the father lost his job, but that wasn't enough. Abi struggles with her faith, but I would have liked to see more of that. I just didn't feel there was enough detail to grab onto. The end was very quick and almost too convenient.

However, because of the fast pace, interesting story, and short length, I think No Parking at the End Times would be a great pick for reluctant teen readers--who would appreciate the lack of depth! So, while I have personal reservations about the story, for the intended audience I think No Parking at the End Times may be worthwhile.

Published by Greenwillow, February 24, 2015
Copy obtained from Edelweiss
272 pages

Rating: 3.5/5





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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stacking the Shelves: A Sequel

So I've been trying to cut down on the number of review books I get, and I did pretty good this week. I had to get one because it is a sequel to a book I really enjoyed.

For Review:
Invasion of the Tearling, Erika Johansen. Cover
Invasion of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen from Edelweiss

And that's it! How about you? Can you tempt me with some books you got? Leave me a link and come back and visit soon.  Don't forget to visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. 





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Friday, February 20, 2015

Feature & Follow: Real or Fantasy?

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Happy Friday. I know it's been a rough week, weather-wise, for a lot of us. And still more to come! Hope you are hanging in there. I did get some extra reading time in since we had a snow day.  Here's this week's question:

Do you like fantasy or realistic books? - Suggested by The Realm of Books.

I used to say I didn't like fantasy. Not anymore. Really, I can read any well-written book. However, I have noticed that I like my fantasy with some humanity mixed in.  The story has to be grounded in a world and beings I can relate to. If the entire thing is magic, if every scrape is overcome using magic, then I have a hard time buying it. The people in the story have to face real danger, and use their wits and strengths to overcome the obstacles.  If they just pull a magic object out of their cloak and everything is resolved, well, that's weak plotting (and poor writing) IMO.

Lately I would probably say contemporary romance (especially teen romance) is my least favorite. Maybe too much "realism?" Not really. It's just that they all seem the same after a while....I don't mind romance as part of the story, but if it's the main event, I have difficulty. I can appreciate the appeal to teens (even though I'm way past that age, I can still remember) but these stories aren't for me.

How about you? How do you feel about fantasy? Romance? Leave your link in the comments. Thanks for stopping by and please remember to visit our hosts, Parajunkee and Alison. See you back soon, I hope!





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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan

Book Cover Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
I had read great things about the Lynburn Legacay series, and Unspoken didn't disappoint. The unique take on magic is very intriguing.

The whole town of Sorry-in-the-Vale is on edge because the Lynburns have returned to Aurimere House. Kami, our main character, is on the story, since she is the editor of the new school newspaper. This town has a lot of secrets, and Kami is having difficulty getting anyone to talk.

Except the voice in her head. Kami has always heard a very specific voice, a boy who is named Jared, in her head. She can feel his feelings and thoughts, so she never feels alone.

There are two teen boys, cousins, that are part of the Lynburn family. Ash, who immediately takes interest in Kami, and wouldn't you know it, the other's name is Jared. Imagine Kami's and Jared's surprise when they discover that they can now see the person whose voice they have heard all their lives. Why has this happened? What caused these two people to be able to hear each other? It's all part of the mystery.

Their relationship is very awkward, but they must work together. Someone is sacrificing animals in the woods and trying to kill Kami, There are some cliched moments, and some careless choices at times, which add to the drama (and the predictability), but for the most part I bought into the whole scenario.

The secrets of the Lynburns and the whole town of Sorry-in-the-Vale are revealed slowly. The ending is startling, dangerous, and exciting. Kami is easy to care about and must make some very difficult decisions.

And the best part of all is that the problems in Sorry-in-the-Vale have only just begun. Untold and Unmade have already been published and I'm looking forward to joining these characters for more adventures!

Published by Random House BFYR, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
373 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Book Review: Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan

Book cover: Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
I have mixed feelings about Fiercombe Manor. It's a good thing the writing is excellent, because it serves to keep you in this hefty tome where almost nothing happens.

The first perspective is of Alice, who in 1933 is banished from London to Fiercombe Manor because she has managed to get pregnant by her lover, a married man. Mrs. Jelphs, the housekeeper of this isolated, run down, lonely home is an old friend of Alice's mother.

While she is there exploring the old home and grounds, Alice becomes interested in its history. In particular the story of Elizabeth, who was the lady of the house thirty years earlier. Alice finds a secret diary that Elizabeth wrote. Neither Mrs. Jelphs or  the old gardener seems to want to talk about the past at all. But Tom, the son of the owner, returns to Fiercombe and befriends Alice and gives her bits and pieces of the estate's sordid history.

We get Elizabeth's perspective also. She is also pregnant, and is very stressed about her condition for several reasons. She has given birth to a daughter, which to her husband isn't worth much. He longs for a male heir. And, after that birth, she became emotionally unstable and well...I won't tell you what happened. Also, she has had some miscarriages.

I felt a bit confused at times because Alice reads some things about Elizabeth in the diary, but Elizabeth tells the reader much more, so you have to keep track of what Alice doesn't know, that you as a reader do.

Fiercombe Manor is all about atmosphere. I expected more of a ghost story, but it really isn't that at all. Because the descriptions of the setting and people are so vivid I stuck with Fiercombe Manor. But I didn't find the revelations to be all that dramatic, or even interesting. I wouldn't say I predicted everything, but more like it didn't surprise me. I felt for the characters. The fears of Elizabeth were palpable. And the restlessness and inquisitiveness of Alice were the only thing that kept the story moving. The ending was entirely satisfying, which also helped my attitude about Fiercombe Manor.

I felt Riordan's writing is a bit like Sarah Waters, but I feel Waters' books have more drama and surprises. She's very descriptive but there's also a plot that moves forward at an acceptable pace. That's what I thought was missing from Firecombe Manor. More excitement and drama.

This is an adult book that would only appeal to the most discriminating teen reader. I would recommend Sarah Waters' books before this one (although still with reservations.)

Published by Harper, February 17, 2015
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
416 pages

Rating: 3/5





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Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski @marierutkoski

Book Cover: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Who can resist a story about forbidden love? Not I.  The Winner's Curse demonstrates this fact very well.

Kestral's father is a general in the Valorian army. The Valorians are determined to continue to conquer other lands and peoples, as they have in the past. On a whim, Kestral buys a Herrani slave, Arin, and brings him home to work as a blacksmith. But she is strangely drawn to him, as he is to her.

Kestral lives in a home that was formerly a Herrani home. The Herranis were conquered many years ago, and those that weren't slaughtered now work mostly as slaves.

There is an undeniable chemistry between Kestral and Herrani, even though both of them know this is an impossible situation. Arin is hiding some big secrets from Kestral. Secrets that may cause her friends and family to come to harm.

The Winner's Curse contains a lot more details of these two races and their world, which make it all the more compelling. There is a revolt, and poison, and music, and maybe a kiss??? A lot to keep a reader's interest. The romance is irresistible, and the political situation puts you on pins and needles. The ending is satisfying, but leaves you anticipating the rest of the story.

The Winner's Curse is well crafted and I will highly recommend this to my teens. The second book, The Winner's Crime will be released in about a week, and I'm reading great things about it also.

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
355 pages

Rating: 5/5





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